Football Antics

November 7, 2017

The National Football League was sometimes criticized for being the “No Fun League” when it enforced rules that tended to discourage sack dances and end zone prances by its players. Recent relaxation of the NFL’s rules of decorum has brought a return of ridiculous behaviors.  

Not only are the behaviors immature, they are usually inappropriate for circumstances. A defensive lineman whose team is trailing by three touchdowns celebrates a rare tackle for a loss by marching around and pounding his chest. A running back whose team is behind by four touchdowns draws attention to a first down by strutting and pointing toward the goal line. A player who scores a touchdown celebrates like he’s never reached the end zone before.

Such behavior is penalized at lower levels. Why is it that the oldest players are allowed to act most childishly?

Attending our high school football games – watching players hand the ball to the official rather than spike it to the ground and dance all around after scoring – has been refreshing. Watching players return to their team huddles without drawing attention to themselves has been reassuring.

Our games are teaching respect and civility and team spirit at a time when America is in desperate need of those values.

Cheering for Sportsmanship

July 31, 2018

(This blog first appeared on on January 8, 2013.)

I try to start each new school year at the Michigan Interscholastic Press Association summer camp at Michigan State University. I talk briefly about who the MHSAA is and what it does; and then two or three dozen high school newspaper editors and writers ask me questions; and in doing so, they give me clues to what’s going on in our schools and what’s important to our students.

Several years ago, when I opened the session to questions, one young man asked: “Mr. Roberts, what’s your job?” I paused, and then said, “I guess I’m the head cheerleader for high school sports in Michigan.”

So then this precocious student asked: “Okay, what do you cheer for?”  With a briefer pause, this is some of what I said:

  • I cheer for sportsmanship that’s not merely good, but great.

  • I cheer for sportsmanship, not gamesmanship.

  • I cheer for playing by the rules, both the letter and the spirit.

  • I cheer for maximum effort to try to win each and every contest.

  • I don’t cheer for winning at any cost; I do cheer for learning at every opportunity.

  • I cheer for losing with grace and for winning with even greater grace, with humility and modesty.

  • I cheer for the lessons of victory and the even greater lessons of defeat.